Campus News

Mitchell Lecture to address breakdown of democracy in America

Tattered American flag.


Published February 19, 2020

Lawrence Lessig, Harvard Law professor and 2020 Mitchell lecturer.
“We all think that our government is fundamentally broken. We’re right. I’ll describe why, and what to do about it.”
Lawrence Lessig, Harvard Law professor and 2020 Mitchell lecturer

The tenets of democracy promise a government representative of its people, a system in which all participate equally. Yet many argue that our system has failed us by giving preferential treatment to special interest groups over its citizens, rendering us unequal.

Harvard law professor Lawrence Lessig will address these fundamental flaws when the UB School of Law hosts the 2020 James McCormick Mitchell Lecture, its signature lecture series that brings distinguished legal scholars to the law school.

The event, “To Be Represented: How They Fail Us and How We Do Too,” will take place from 1:30-3 p.m. March 27 in 106 O'Brian Hall, North Campus. 

Lessig, the Roy L. Furman Professor of Law and Leadership at Harvard Law School, is the founder of Equal Citizens, a non-profit organization “dedicated to reforms that will achieve citizen equality.” He is a founding board member of Creative Commons and serves on the Scientific Board of AXA Research Fund.

A member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Philosophical Society, he has received numerous awards, including a Webby, the Free Software Foundation’s Freedom Award, Scientific American 50 Award and Fastcase 50 Award.

The New Yorker calls Lessig, who focuses much of his work on law and technology, “the most important thinker on intellectual property in the Internet era.”  His current work addresses “institutional corruption” — relationships that while legal, weaken public trust in an institution — especially as it affects democracy.

“We all think that our government is fundamentally broken,” Lessig says. “We’re right. I’ll describe why, and what to do about it.”

The Mitchell lecture, which is free and open to the public, will be live-streamed to 107 and 108 O’Brian to accommodate any overflow in attendance.

The Mitchell Lecture Series was endowed in 1950 by a gift from Lavinia A. Mitchell in memory of her husband, James McCormick Mitchell. An 1897 graduate of the Buffalo Law School, James Mitchell later served as chairman of the Council of the University of Buffalo, which was then a private university.

Justice Robert H. Jackson delivered the first Mitchell Lecture in 1951, titled “Wartime Security and Liberty Under Law.” The lecture was published that year in the first issue of the Buffalo Law Review.

Mitchell Lecture programs have brought many distinguished speakers to the School of Law, among them C. Edwin Baker, Derrick Bell, Barry Cushman, Carol Gilligan, Elizabeth Holtzman, Irene Zubaida Khan, Stewart Macaulay, Catharine McKinnon, Carrie Menkel-Meadow, Richard Posner and Clyde Summers.